Etihad Confirms Airbus A380’s Return!!

Etihad Airways parked its 10 Airbus A380s during the pandemic, and its CEO said they’d likely never fly again. That’s sad because their best passenger experience was on this aircraft. Indeed, many airlines had their best seats and amenities on the world’s largest passenger jet.

Last year Etihad’s CEO said it’s “possible the aircraft will fly again once more under the Etihad brand but only if certain market conditions are met.”

He offered that any plan to bring back the Airbus A380 would only be temporary, a “stopgap” until the Abu Dhabi-based carrier takes deliveries of new widebody aircraft currently on order from Boeing and Airbus. They have a new business class seats for their Airbus A350s with no first class cabin.

It’s been expected that they’d bring back 3 A380s, operating to London, Sydney and Paris from Abu Dhabi.

Weeks ago it was revealed they’d restarted crew training for the aircraft.


This means it should be possible to use American AAdvantage miles and Air Canada Aeroplan miles (as well as Etihad’s own miles) to book one of the best products in the sky. I’ve flown Etihad’s First Apartment almost as much as Cathay Pacific first class over the years.

It’s been my go-to for trips to the Maldives (5 of my last 6 were on Etihad). I’ve visited the Mideast many times, alternating between Etihad and Emirates. And I’ve even chosen Middle East stops enroute to Australia because First Apartment redemptions for both long haul segments made the journey so easy.

Etihad introduced its ‘Apartment’ – really a room that has a separate seat and bed, and of course a shower available in the cabin for first class passengers – when they took delivery of their first Airbus A380. At the time it was arguably the best first class in the world, though now some prefer Emirates new first suite, the new Singapore Airlines A380 Suites, or ANA’s new first class.

Part of the divider between adjoining Apartments slides down, and passengers traveling together could this ‘be in bed beside each other’ which was special.

Despite advances at other airlines it remained a top 5 product in the world and it was regularly available using miles for routes like New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Paris – Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi to Sydney and Melbourne. Using American miles you did have to know a booking trick, and availability often only showed for flights to the U.S. when searching roundtrip awards originating in Abu Dhabi on the Etihad website (but you’d book by phone anyway).

What’s nuts is that the First Apartment wasn’t even Etihad’s best product. The ‘Apartment’ in the first row on the left side of the cabin was turned into “The Residence” by combining it with what some A380 operators used as a dead space or lounge space, giving it not just a sitting area but also its own bathroom/shower and separate bedroom.

Residence guests had their own butler, who was Savoy Hotel-trained in the U.K. and had to wear butler attire when serving the Residence. Etihad would customize what they would have on board for a Residence guest based on advance requests. When no passengers were booked into the Residence the butler acted as a flight attendant on board.

Aside from the A380 though and while they may have eliminated first class chefs their first class suites on the limited number of planes still offering those remain fairly spectacular.

We don’t yet know what products Etihad will sell on board once the A380 returns, for instance if the Residence will be sold at all or as a premium first class seat. I can’t wait to see.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Agreed – good news about one of the best products in the sky. If only the US carriers could offer anything remotely close – even from a soft product standard.

  2. Hasn’t this tweeter, M Zulqarnain B, made similar tweets about the return of Etihad’s A380’s in the past and nothing ever came of it?

  3. That 10-hour flight in First Apartment from ICN to AUH was one of the greatest redemptions back in the day at only 50k AA miles. I’d love to see that return. If not, then nearly 15 hours back from Sydney and onwards to Paris or London for 115k isn’t half bad either.

  4. I agree with Michael: who is M. Zulqarnain? Before crediting a tweeter’s statements as fact can you provide us with his background/basis for statements? Unless connected with Etihad I find it difficult to believe an individual would have access to such important information.

  5. While I’d love to see the Apartments back, the past credibility of the Tweeter is questionable. Plus, I see an upcoming economic downturn which will probably nuke any slight chance of the A380 return to Etihad.

  6. The Apartment is a truly exceptional product and doesn’t really have a match in the industry, but it seems like a folly, and a “me too” effort on Etihad’s part to return the A380s to the skies. If it needs the extra capacity to meet demand, that’s one thing, but if it is just designed to join the number of airlines around the world that have returned A380s (or will) to service purely to keep up, it shows how little Etihad has changed and that it remains a poorly run, bloated state subsidy that simply makes no money and doesn’t really have a business plan.

  7. Sounds great.

    On a separate note, can you publish a story about WN bringing back their dividend?

  8. @ladyolives – they’ve spoken to a temporary need for capacity given boeing delivery delays, and I disagree that the apartment is unmatched, I certainly think Singapore’s new A380 Suites is comparable or better. I disagree with those who rate Air France first more highly, but the new Emirates first class is an amazing offering.

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